Being a good wingman -- much more than just a phrase

  • Published
  • By Brig. Gen. Mark Dillon
  • 86th Airlift Wing commander
The concept of a wingman goes back to the very early days of aerial combat, when pilots in the first world war learned that two sets of eyes were better than one--for mutual protection and for mission accomplishment.

Just as our aviation pioneers did in WW I, we do the same today for every formation flight: lead prebriefs the sortie, the formation flys the mission, and lead debriefs the mission. The wingman concept--mutual support for mission success--is time tested, simple and effective.

Fast forward to today's Air Force, the term wingman means exactly the same thing it did to the first Airmen--providing mutual support in order to accomplish the mission. Just like the Army's "Battle Buddy" system and the "Shipmates" program in the Navy, our Air Force has put a concerted effort toward spreading a "wingman" culture across everything our Airmen do--both on and off duty.

Team Ramstein, we have hundreds of great wingman examples every day. Some recent ones I've seen are: going the extra mile sponsoring a newcomer to the KMC, coaching and motivating a fellow Airman with their PT, and helping another Airman get their chemical gear on during our recent ORI. Airman--on and off duty--providing Airmen mutual support to accomplish the mission.

Unfortunately, our soaring DUI statistics illustrate that a certain percentage of our Airmen still don't understand the wingman concept. We have had several DUIs recently where Airmen said they were the "wingman" then stood by and didn't follow through with their "wingman" responsibilities mentioned earlier. For example: these so-called "wingmen" let another Airmen drive while intoxicated, or sat sober in the car while their fellow Airman drove them around intoxicated, or abandoned their fellow Airman halfway through the night, or were in a formation of Airmen who got intoxicated then picked the least drunk Airman to drive them home. Airmen are put at unnecessary risk, and mission failure results when these crimes are committed. A good wingman would never allow this--to not provide mutual support to a fellow Airman leads to mission failure.

Fellow Team Ramstein Airmen, the vast majority of you are doing a tremendous job being good wingmen every day--both on and off duty. Your actions prove what our forefathers taught us that that being a good wingman is more than a cliche'--its a time tested way to successfully accomplish the mission--on and off duty.

As always, thank you and your families for serving this great nation.